by Emmanuel Obe and Gbenga Adeniji
More reactions on Monday greeted extracts from Prof. Chinua Achebe’s latest memoirs on the Nigerian Civil War with former Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Afenifere leaders disagreeing on Achebe’s attack on Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
A leader of the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Senator Femi Okunrunmu, while reviewing the memoirs entitled ‘There was a Country,’ said Achebe’s criticism of Awolowo suggested he was ‘‘ already getting senile.’’
He added that the submissions were “tantamount to something coming from a child”.Okurounmu, who represented Ogun Central in the Senate during the Fourth Republic, said Achebe should be familiar with situations of war.
He said, ‘‘I am not surprised that Achebe is already getting senile. He must be familiar with situations of war; all weapons are fair in war. Nobody fights a war to lose. In an act of war, it is acceptable if there is a blockade to prevent food from getting to the other party.’’
Okurounmu, the former Secretary General of Afenifere, advised that those who prosecuted the war should admit that they fought and lost.
Also, he urged them to desist from levelling false charges against the man who won the war.
‘‘Achebe’s comments are absolutely irrelevant. He has never hidden his bitterness against the Yoruba,’’ he stated.
But the immediate-past President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, and the President of the Igbo Youth Movement, Mr. Elliot Uko, said Achebe spoke the truth about the war.
Ikedife, who spoke with our correspondent on telephone, said though he had not read the book, it was clear to him that what Achebe said about Awolowo and former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon using starvation as a weapon of warfare was “the naked truth.”
He said, “That is the naked truth. It is a fact. The sooner we are able to face facts on this issue, the better for all of us.
“Those of us who witnessed the war are not dead. What Achebe said is the simple truth.”
He said rather than dissipate energies on trying to get Achebe wrong, Nigeria should take a cue from Nelson Mandela of South Africa who set up the truth and reconciliation commission, where South Africans came and purged themselves of the iniquities of the apartheid era and apologised so that things could go on well again among them.
“But if you try to turn green into white, people will know you are lying. And you are not going to get anywhere with it,” he said.
On his part, Uko said, “What Achebe said is the bitter truth,” adding that Awolowo was unfair to the Igbo, whom he was visiting a vendetta because of the Northern Peoples Congress and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens alliance in the First Republic which denied Awolowo the chance to be part of the Federal Government, which eventually jailed him for treason.”
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